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Setting Straight the Waves: Quick Overview on Transverse Waves

UserMark time16 April,2019

If you are having a hard day at college with back-to-back lectures on waves and its properties, we can end your despair. We know assignments on transverse and longitudinal waves can be a real dampener. So here is the ultimate guide to knowing all you should on transverse wave. Read on to find definitions, examples, and points of comparison between transverse and longitudinal waves.

Transverse waves

But what’s the best part?

Unlike your drab handouts and recommended readings, this blog explains the complex topic with relative ease. Bookmark this one before you set out to finish your assignment on the transverse and longitudinal wave.

Transverse wave definition

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Encyclopaedia Britannica defines transverse waves as the motion in which all the points on a wave oscillate in a perpendicular angle in the direction the wave is heading. The particles of the medium oscillate around their actual positions at a right angle to the direction that the wave propagates. Seismic waves and sound waves are some common examples of transverse waves. Transverse waves rise and fall at right angles to the direction that the wave is going, forming a crest and trough pattern.

Transverse wave: types

Transverse waves are primarily of two types. This is a simplistic take on transverse waves. The following classification will help you understand the concept of transverse wave much better.

Transverse waves can be of two types: polarised waves and electromagnetic waves.

  • Electromagnetic wave:

Radio waves, light waves and thermal radiation are some examples of electromagnetic waves. They do not require any medium to propagate. However, when they are polarised, they can take on the motion of transverse waves. These waves have momentum.

  • Polarised wave:

A circular hand motion and a whirlpool in bath water are two examples of polarised waves. It is essentially a two-dimensional wave. It has the characteristics of polarisation present. If we move our hands up and down in a line, we get linear polarisation. Similarly, the circular motion would result in a circular polarisation. The linear and circular motions in polarised waves can combine to form a third kind of polarisation, called elliptical because of its shape.

Examples of transverse waves

Television waves, surface waves (ripples), ultraviolet waves, heat, microwave, and sound waves in gas and liquid are some common examples of transverse waves. Check out the following examples for a better comprehension of transverse wave examples as well.

  • Guitar strums:

Strumming on guitar strings makes the energy waves travel along the body of the string. The string takes on a perpendicular oscillation to the body of the spring as well. Both combine to generate sound waves in the form of transverse waves.

  • Cheering wave at stadiums:

A common scenario at football or cricket stadiums, spectators forming a wave is an example of transverse wave. The waves momentum flows along the direction of parallel stadium seats. But the fascinating factor is that; it forms a crest and trough motion as well. That being perpendicular to the direction of the wave’s movement, forms a transverse wave.

Longitudinal wave definition

A wave motion that travels through a particular medium in the direct that the wave is going, is called a longitudinal wave. Merriam Webster defines longitudinal waves as a motion in which the particles of a medium vibrate in the direction of the propagation of the wave.

Longitudinal waves have areas of compression and rarefaction. When particles are close together in regions of high pressure, they take on compression properties in the wave. Thus, longitudinal waves are also called compressional waves. Regions of low pressure where particles are farther apart take on rarefactional properties in longitudinal waves.

Longitudinal wave examples

Vibrations on glass windows, internal water waves, ultrasound waves, spring or slinky coil oscillations, and earthquakes (P wave) are a few examples of longitudinal waves.

Transverse vs. longitudinal waves: a comparison

Transverse Wave Longitudinal Wave
The vibration of particles travels in right angles to the direction of the wave. The vibration of particles travels in the direction of the wave.
Transverse wave takes on a crest and trough (rise and fall) pattern. Longitudinal wave takes on a compression and rarefaction pattern.
Transverse waves can travel through a solid and liquid medium. Longitudinal waves can travel through a solid, gas, and liquid medium.
Examples: light waves, electromagnetic waves, surface waves, seismic S waves Examples: sound waves, ultrasound waves, internal water waves, tsunami waves, seismic P waves

Wrapping it up

While assignments on transverse wave can give you a hard time, this blog can be just the solution to it all. Don’t put off that date or night-out with friends to town. With this easy guide to all things about transverse waves, you can rock that assignment like never before. Save this to the bookmarks tab so you can find it easily when structuring your assignment. You can also take a few pointers on drawing up a slant for that essay or assignment. Good luck!

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